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SC Orders 6-Month Jail to Justice Karnan for contempt of 'Grievous Nature'

CS Karnan, who retired on June 12 as Calcutta High Court judge, was arrested on June 20.

CS Karnan, who retired on June 12 as Calcutta High Court judge, was arrested on June 20.

Calcutta High Court judge Justice CS Karnan became the first sitting judge to be sent to jail with the Supreme Court holding him in contempt on Tuesday.

New Delhi:In an unprecedented ruling, a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar held sitting Calcutta High Court judge Justice CS Karnan guilty of contempt of “grievous nature” and sentenced him six months of imprisonment.

The bench stated that Justice Karnan has to be looked at like an “ordinary citizen” of the country and cannot be treated like a sitting judge in this case. Justice Karnan was also found guilty of abusing the judiciary and judicial indiscretion. CJI Khehar noted that “contempt is contempt”.

After hearing the submissions of Mahendra Singh, Additional Solicitor General of India and Senior Advocate KK Venugopal, the court ruled that Karnan was medically fit and the fact that Kolkata Medical Board did not contradict his statement that “he was mentally stable” was enough to prove that he didn’t deserve any leniency.

Senior Advocate KK Venugopal, appearing for Justice Karnan, had pleaded the court not to take offence of Justice Karnan’s remarks and that the court should consider the fact that Karnan was close to retirement from services in June.

The apex court also heard the submission by a counsel for Justice Karnan stating that if Justice Karnan was convicted, it will be a blemish on the judiciary. But the CJI retorted, asking ‘what about the blemish that we did not punish him because he was a sitting judge’.

The SC has directed the DGP West Bengal to form a committee of police personnel “forthwith” and arrest Justice Karnan.

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Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had argued that Justice Karnan was mentally fit and that the SC must clamp down against this behavior as it was tarnishing the image of the judiciary.

Though Justice Karnan was slapped with contempt charges in February by the seven-judge bench and was also stripped of judicial and administrative powers for alleging corruption and caste bias in the judiciary, the Calcutta HC judge had on Monday delivered a “verdict” holding all the seven judges of the bench guilty under the Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of Cruelty) Act. The judges mentioned were, the Chief Justice of India, Justice Dipak Misra, Justice J Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan B Lokur, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Kurian Joseph.

During the previous hearing, the apex court had raised serious doubts over the mental health of Justice Karnan and had stated that it was to be seen whether he was in a position to defend the case. SC had ordered Justice Karnan to undergo a medical examination on May 4 and had also directed the DGP West Bengal along with medical professionals to ensure that the examination was duly conducted.

But on May 4, Karnan declined to undergo a mental health checkup as ordered, telling a team of doctors that he was “absolutely normal”.

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In an earlier occasion, Justice Karnan had directed the Air Control Authority of India to ensure that the SC judges were not allowed to travel abroad as there was risk of the “virus of caste bias” being spread to other countries.

Justice Karnan appeared before the Supreme Court on March 31 in connection with the contempt proceeding, becoming the first high court judge to do so in the history of Indian judiciary.
first published:May 09, 2017, 11:05 IST